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Tomb Raider 2 - Dagger Of Xian

Tomb Raider II: Starring Lara Croft is an action-adventure video game in the Tomb Raider series and is the sequel to the 1996 video game Tomb Raider. Developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive, the game was originally released for PlayStation, Windows 95 in November 1997, Macintosh in 1998 and on the PlayStation Network in 2009.

Story

Plot

The story of Tomb Raider II surrounds the mythical Dagger of Xian, a weapon which was used by an Emperor of China to command his army. By plunging the weapon into its owner's heart, the weapon has the power to turn its bearer into a dragon. A flashback reveals that the last battle which was fought with the Dagger ended in defeat when the warrior monks of Tibet succeeded in removing the knife from the Emperor's heart. The Dagger was then returned to its resting place within the Great Wall.

The game sets in the present day near the remains of the Great Wall, where Lara Croft investigates the legend of the Dagger. Upon reaching the door which leads to the dagger, she is attacked by a thug who claims to work for Marco Bartoli, a Venetian Mafia leader who has an obsession with the ancient lore of the Dagger. After making her way through Bartoli's hideout and an opera house at Venice, Lara follows Bartoli aboard his airplane, but is knocked unconscious before she can confront Bartoli.

The plane is headed toward an oil rig. At the site, the cult is carrying out excavations on a sunken ship called the Maria Doria, a luxury ocean liner which was owned by Marco's Father that sank two years ago. When Lara gains consciousness, she learns that the crew has taken her weapons and equipment. She retrieves her weapons and makes her way through the oil rig. She later learns from an imprisoned Tibetan monk, Brother Chan, that the shipwreck carries an ancient Tibetan artifact called the Seraph. Lara dives and grips a submarine and arrives at the shipwreck. There she successfully retrieves the Seraph. She later obtains an airplane and begins to fly toward her target.

As Lara heads to the Tibetan monastery, she realizes the plane is to crash into the mountains. She manages to escape using a parachute and arrives at the Barkhang Monastery in Tibet. There she is helped by monks in confronting the thugs of Marco Bartoli. With the help of the monks, she finds and uses five prayer wheels to open a door that leads to a room to hold the Seraph. She continues her journey inside the catacombs to find the Talion, a key used to open the door which leads to the dagger. After confronting several yetis, she recovers the Talion. The FMV cutscene shows Lara exiting the caves. She takes off in a jeep while a guard is patrolling outside. Another jeep with two guards follows Lara, but she manages to escape.

Back in China, Lara opens the door to the chamber holding the Dagger. Before she reaches the artifact, however, Lara is plunged into the catacombs beneath the Great Wall. After climbing a staircase with blades, she makes her way to a place with green floating islands and warriors which come alive when triggered. She finally moves to the room where she witnesses Bartoli drive the dagger into his heart, transforming himself into a dragon. In the final scene, Lara manages to temporarily render the creature unconscious and pulls the dagger from Bartoli's heart. Soon after this, the whole tomb begins to collapse, and a part of Great Wall is destroyed. In the epilogue, Lara returns home and is shown cleaning the dagger when she hears an alarm going off. She discovers the remainder of Marco Bartoli's men have tracked her down to England and are planning to invade her mansion. Luckily she overpowers them. The final shot is of Lara, unrobing before entering the shower. She turns to the camera and says: "Don't you think you've seen enough?" She then blasts her shotgun at the camera.

Characters

The events of the game concern the mythical Dagger of Xian and Lara's attempts to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. The following characters appeared within the game:

  • Lara Croft
  • Winston
  • Marco Bartoli: The leader of the Fiamma Nera cult and the main villain of Tomb Raider II. Bartoli seeks the Seraph, a key that will lead him into the catacombs of the Barkhang Monastery in Tibet where the key to the Dagger of Xian lies. Towards the end of the game in China, Bartoli plungs the dagger into his heart and becomes a dragon, whom Lara must fight on the penultimate level: The Dragon's Lair.
  • Gianni Bartoli: Father of Marco Bartoli, he's only mentioned in cutscenes and seen on a Poster in the Opera house. He was the original owner of the Seraph sigil, but he lost the key and his life when the Barkhang monks sunk his ocean liner: the Maria Doria.
  • Brother Chan Barkhang: For generations, the sacred order of the Barkhang monks have kept the secrets of the dagger confined within their Tibetan monastery. The tombs beneath this ancient structure hold a keystone called the Talion. Marco Bartoli kidnapped Brother Chan Barkhang and sent his gang to Tibet in order to recover it. After telling Lara of the Talion, Brother Chan is shot dead by Bartoli. He appears in one of the Diving Area cutscenes.
  • Cult members: Lara encounters many of these cult members who work for Marco Bartoli, and who seem to regard him with worshipful reverence. Her first encounter is with the cult member who ambushes her at the end of the first level set at the Great Wall of China. When Lara turns the tables on him, he commits suicide, just after revealing whom he works for. This information and an address obtained from a nearby computer send Lara to Venice in search of Bartoli. The cult members reappear in other cut scenes and as enemies to be fought on most of the levels, especially on the last level where they invade Lara's Home.

Gameplay

The gameplay of Tomb Raider II builds upon the basic set up of the original game. For a detailed discussion of its features, see the gameplay section of Tomb Raider. Innovations in Tomb Raider II include, new weapons, extra moves, a small set of vehicles, larger levels, many more enemies, mostly human enemies and dynamic lighting (in the original gun fire did not briefly light up the immediate area and flares did not exist). As well as these new features, the player may now save wherever and whenever they choose, save for a few special locations, as opposed to its predecessor's crystal saving feature.

In terms of movement, Lara can now climb ladders and perform a mid-air roll used to land in the opposite direction of which the player was facing. The range of weapons has been expanded to include a harpoon gun (though more correctly termed a speargun), a grenade launcher, an M16 rifle, which requires Lara to assume an aiming stance to fire, and automatic pistols, which replace the magnums from Tomb Raider. The item inventory now includes pyrotechnic flares, which are used to light up dark corners and take advantage of the improved lighting system implemented by the developers. The two vehicles in the game are a motorboat (in Venice) and a snow scooter (in Tibet). Both are used to travel long distances across the map and can speed up on ramps or run over enemies.

For Tomb Raider II, Lara's appearance was given a make-over by the designer, Stuart Atkinson, giving her a free-flowing pony tail, a smoother appearance, and several new outfits. In China and Venice she wears her familiar Tomb Raider outfit of a tanktop and shorts, in the ocean levels a half-body wetsuit and in Tibet a flight jacket.

The object of the game remains unchanged from the previous game: each level must be finished by solving various puzzles, collecting key items, and performing difficult jumps. However, this time there is an emphasis on gun fights and the killing of human opponents as well. Secrets no longer immediately reward the player with weapons or medipacks. Instead, each secret is marked by a coloured dragon ornament: silver (or stone), jade, and gold, according to the difficulty of their location. Only when Lara collects the last of all three dragons in a level will she receive a bonus, which usually consists of medipacks and ammunition, and infrequently a new weapon.

Development history

Development of Tomb Raider II was already in its conceptual stages before the first game was released. By the time Core Design wrapped up Tomb Raider, more ideas and suggestions had been put forth, some of which could be incorporated in the first game, others which would shape up to become the next instalment of the series.

While two key members of the original team had left – most notably Lara's creator Toby Gard, who was replaced by Stuart Atkinson – the design team for Tomb Raider II was expanded to more than twice of its original size. Subsequently, the game took a shorter amount of time to develop than its predecessor. A decision was made early to keep the engine from Tomb Raider, adopting a tweak-and-improve approach, rather than starting over from scratch. Minor camera issues and object glitches were fixed, while new features were added, such as dynamic lighting and a more flexible control system. With the improvements to the graphics engine, a larger number of polygons could be rendered on screen, allowing large outdoors areas and more atmospheric effects.

Core Design used a custom built level editor that made it possible to explore each stage as it was being created, allowing levels to be play tested on the fly and eliminating glitches. A team of six playtesters continually tested the game up until it was set to be sent to Sony.

While the original Tomb Raider was released on both the PlayStation and Sega Saturn game consoles, Tomb Raider II was no longer designed for the Sega Saturn despite having been confirmed as a target platform for the game in the first place. Following the cancellation announcement, Adrian Smith cited technical limitations of the console to program an adequate conversion. In September 1997, Sony Computer Entertainment America signed a deal with Eidos to make console releases for the Tomb Raider franchise exclusive to the PlayStation, preventing the Sega Saturn or any other competing console from having any Tomb Raider game released for it until 2000.

Shelley Blond did not reprise her role as Lara Croft from the previous game. Instead, Judith Gibbins voiced Lara.

Reception

As one of the most hotly anticipated games of 1997, Tomb Raider II was an immediate commercial success, quickly surpassing the sales of Tomb Raider. As its predecessor, the game was critically successful, though not as much as its predecessor. On Game Rankings, the PC version received an 86.20% and the PlayStation version received an 82.71%. Of particular praise were Tomb Raider II's improved graphics, the use of vehicles to add variety to gameplay and the more action oriented objectives.

At the time of Tomb Raider II's release, Lara was arguably at the height of her fame. A third instalment in the series was inevitable and by the winter of 1998 Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft was released. Talks for a screen adaptation were in progress, Lara Croft featured prominently in several SEAT and Lucozade commercials and U2 famously used her image as a pop icon on their 1997 PopMart Tour. The game sold 7 million copies, and has sold about 1 million on the PlayStation Network, marking 8 million. It is the second best selling Tomb Raider title, closely followed by Tomb Raider 3.

Versions and expansions

Tomb Raider II was released for Windows 95, Macintosh and PlayStation. There are only slight differences between the three versions and they have nothing to do with the game itself. The PlayStation version has a loading screen with a picture of the current country when loading levels. The Mac version has a loading bar in the same style font as the rest of the game text. However the PC version has nothing.

Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask

In 1999, Tomb Raider II was re-released for PC as Tomb Raider II Gold in North America and Tomb Raider II: Golden Mask elsewhere. The game comprises the scenarios of the original Tomb Raider II and 5 new bonus levels in a separate mini-adventure entitled "The Golden Mask". Unlike the other two Gold games, however, The Golden Mask contains no story ties to its corresponding game from the main Tomb Raider series. Its plot is completely unique.

The story involves Lara Croft coming across some clues referring to a small island in the Bering Sea: a faded photograph showing an Inuit whale hunter holding what looks like an ancient Golden Mask, an old newspaper from 1945 referring to a conflict over an Alaskan gold discovery, and a secret kind of fortified military mine base. Lara is primarily interested in finding the Mask, as it is rumoured to be the famed Golden Mask of Tornarsuk, a greater spirit said to bestow powers of re-animation on the mask wearer.

Featured Images

Tomb Raider Games

Tomb Raider (1996) · Unfinished Business (1998) · Tomb Raider II (1997) · The Golden Mask (1999) · Tomb Raider III (1998) · The Lost Artifact (2000) · The Last Revelation (1999) · The Times (1999) · Chronicles (2000) · The Angel of Darkness (2003) · Legend (2006) · Anniversary (2007) · Underworld (2008) · Beneath the Ashes (2009) · Lara's Shadow (2009) · Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light (2010)

Tomb Raider Movies

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) · The Cradle Of Life (2003)